Category Archives: Being Dad

Fashion District

I would call this past weekend a pretty good success. We did some stuff and with Zoe and crew still in town it was nice to get out and about. But I hit the wall on Sunday and I couldn’t seem to recover. I went to bed, not super early and I am still dragging. I want to claim “under the weather” but I don’t have enthusiasm for anything so staying here at work is just as relevant. But first, the weekend:

All I had planned for Saturday was a quick walk up Signal Hill. I am still thinking about training for our Whitney hike. I took us a while to get going because I was asked to make a tortilla for breakfast. Our walk was really quick. The point was to just get steepness into our bones. After that Zoe had mentioned that she wanted to go see the “Hunger Games” costumes that she heard were being displayed somewhere in LA. We found out that they were on display at the the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising Gallery in LA. So we went. It was interesting to see not only those costumers, but the costumes from other movies like Les Miserables. There wasn’t any explanation, like was the material hand made or off the shelf selected. Was that dress really made from scratch or was it bought at a thrift store. So we looked at the costumes and marveled at being close to something real from and unreal experience such that movies are. No pictures allowed. Why? After that short visit we needed a place to eat. CK always like Taco Bell. We headed towards the closest Taco Bell and we ran into huge crowds of people. What the heck was this? Here are some pictures

Fashion districtFashion district2It turns out that his area is the fashion district of LA. There were hundreds of shops and thousands of shoppers. It felt like they all knew something that we didn’t We got out and started walking around. CK bought some shoes, I bought a pair of 501’s and McKala bought a cover for her iPod. As an example the 501’s I bought cost me 20 bucks. (Normally $40 – $50) We just got out of the car expecting to spend 30 minutes. We were there for several hours. I think everyone had a good time. We will want to come back when we are in a shopping mood. We probably bought stuff that we wouldn’t have shopped for. I had no idea that CK’s shoes had fallen apart, so he needed the shoes. We normally spend $10 for cheap shoes at Target. We spent $40 on some Nike shoes. Were they really Nike? I don’t know. Were they $10 shoes? I don’t know. I know he needed new shoes and he got them. Dakota bought a dress, Xenia bought some leggings. Again a fun adventure. I wish Jenny would have come with us, but we couldn’t have fit her in the car anyway. On Sunday she said that Patrice had mentioned that we seem to always be doing stuff. I liked that compliment. The strangest part of the experience is that it seemed like we stumbled across something that obviously a lot of people already knew about.



Catchup A Birthday, A Walk, and Skid Row

I have had some ups and downs and it has been awhile since I wrote anything. I would say that I am mostly up right now. I have found that my job is causing the eb and flow of my emotions. It is Monday and I am stilling riding the wave of a good weekend. I also wanted to catch up with a few pictures that I took. I would have more and better, but we can’t find the charger for the camera battery and so I all I have is a few pictures from Xenia’s phone. I am going to work backwards starting with yesterday.

A month or so ago I had set up for us to go help out at breakfast for the Midnight Mission in LA. It is the center of skid row. It was not a good weekend to be doing this since we had to go move our stuff from AZ and everything else we had going on. I even confessed to Kim that I didn’t want to admit it, but I was wishing we were not doing this. I told her at 11PM so it was a little late to do anything about it but not show up the next morning. We went to bed at midnight and I set the alarm for 5AM. I still had to print out the forms, unhook the trailer, print off directions and get all the kids out the door. Somehow it all came together and we were on the road by 530AM. Since we had helped out at the St. Vincent DePaul center in Phoenix we all kind of had an idea of what was expected. That is why when they asked for volunteers to work in the back Dakota and Xenia jumped at the chance. They ended up cracking eggs for the entire hour and half we were there. The rest of us worked in the dining room. At one point near the end of our shift I was overcome emotionally. I felt it was an honor to be doing this on Sunday morning. We were home by 830AM in plenty of time for church though it was tough to stay awake. I can’t describe what it felt like to be helping with out judgment the most vulnerable and needy of our population. I didn’t care if they were addicted to drugs, criminals, or even bad people. I was just there to help them get a single meal for a single morning. I wouldn’t be anyplace else. Last night I whispered to Kim that I want to go back next week. That may be too much for the kids, or even me, but I want to go back.

As part of our preparation for whitney we walked from Grandma’s house to Seal Beach. We had dropped a car off the night before so that we did not have to walk back. It was 6 miles of walking. It took us about 2½  hours. The reward at the end was to eat at the end of the walk cafe. It was a real treat and expensive ($75). The food was ok, the view was fantastic and the rest was needed.

End of the Beach CafeBefore that walk we had gone up to Korea Town for McKala’s birthday. We walked around, there wasn’t much to see. We tried to find a place to eat. One place looked good, but the table setup was intimidating and the prices were too much for us. We ended up just eating at the local mall in their food court. We were the only non-Asians there. Korea Town Food CourtIt was adventuresome. We spent way to much on McKala’s birthday, but in a way I feel like we spent too little consideration. Sure we let Xenia buy a $30 gift instead of a box of her favorite cereal, but did we celebrate McKala? Did we make it special enough? I don’t know. She is 18 now. She already drives. She says she wants to change, but she knows she does not want to make any effort. I don’t envision success for her in doing that.

Leo Carrillo Beach Campout

Wonderful weekend. Then I got the bills for our car repairs. Am I getting the right deal? $600 for my car and probably $1500 for the suburban. I have to assume that this will pass. I had been praying and worrying about McKala. Xenia had an episode and McKala was able to see that maybe she needed to figure out how to get unstuck. If she learns from that then fantastic.

Weekend campout was fantastic.  The best part? CK sharing his crushes openly and freely. Just thinking about it makes me smile. CK and I had gone the weekend before with the scouts. I was so enamored with thDSC_0066e place that I went home and suggested to Kim that we ought to go as a family. I had done the same thing with a hike I had done inDSC_0098 AZ and we never got around to doing the hike. I was a little surprised that Kim was immediately supportive. Sometimes DSC_0072I wonder if she is just humoring me. Anyway I went ahead and booked the camp site. I wanted to do three things on the campout. 1. I wanted to test the phone mattress I had bought for Kim to see if it would work for our Whitney trip. She things that maybe she blew too much air into it so the jury is still out on that. 2. I wanted to test using the little backpacker’s stove I got for my birthday. That was a great success. With the little cup we had for cooking we were able to make enough beans for 5 burritos easy. We also learned that we could boil the water and pour it into a zip lock bag which will make things faster and easier and no cleaning. I good success. 3. I wanted us to do a little hiking. Some of us had done the 20 miler two weeks ago. I wanted to see how we would do on elevation gain.


DSC_0043 DSC_0039 DSC_0037 DSC_0036 DSC_0031 DSC_0019The campground was exceptional. There was a big Swiss family Robinson tree that gave us privacy and shade. Even though the campground was in the trees it was a short walk to the beach. We climbed up on a rock that was half way in the water and I started getting the feeling that I had seen this beach before. It turns out that it is where the opening scene from Grease was filmed. Wow!  To get to the beach we had to walk through a tunnel under PCH. The tunnel was decorated really cute and was surprisingly free of graffiti. A great short weekend trip.

Touched by the angels

I had a much better day yesterday. Again the goal is to keep my job. I do two things. 1. Arrive before my boss and leave after him. 2. While he is here I do nothing but work, except for lunch. That actually made me feel good and made me feel like I had a good day. I rushed home to get to CK’s orchestra concert. Traffic was heavier than I expected and I walked into the auditorium as they were finishing. I was glad I was there, but I wish I hadn’t missed it. And because I was late the other kids did not get to go. I was supposed to pick them up, but instead I had to go straight there. We went to In-N-Out for a celebratory shake. Eric called and I spent too much time talking to him and not paying attention to CK. Afterwards we got home and I ran by Stater’s to get water. I was very touched by the number of people who gave to a man begging out front. One family came out and the father had given each of his kids a dollar to give to the man. The woman thanked the man for calling her girls angels. They were. Very touching. This can be a very good world. So I got home after 9PM and for some reason we have let Dakota finish watching a TV show, “Ever After”  We stayed up too late and though we had prayer we did not read together. We are going camping this weekend. High achieving Xenia doesn’t understand why we would be gone all weekend. I think she wants to practice her violin. She is an interesting child like they all are.

Sitting with Dakota

Kim had been worrying about Dakota. She felt like Dakota’s spirit was being crushed with the school work. I did ask her if she had any homework and she said she was giving up. Because Kim was concerned I committed to sitting down with Dakota. When I got home at 700 Dakota was sitting at the table working on History. I sat with her for the next 2 hours. Mostly just giving her social interaction and encouraging her to keep at it. She seemed to be in a good mood. She told me that she had asked her teacher for more time on a project and he said “of course. You are a great student” She really liked that. So I think it was successful.

Being almost there

After spending the morning on a conference call and doing other stuff waiting for my license to come in I decided to take off to the beach with the family. Kim, Xenia, Dakota, CK and Jack (Karen’s) and I all went. I had a good time, but I look back now and I could have spent more time with the kids. I spent most of my time out further in the bigger waves. In other words I was entertaining myself. I know that hovering is not necessary and sometimes just being there is enough. I am sure that I can engage with the kids more. I did insist on buying Dakota a swim suit. I thought it was going to be just the two of us, but she asked her mother to go along. I don’t know if that says something about me or something about Kim. We spent several hours. The reason I got involved is that I had put them in a tough spot. Kim is trying to frugal and she had found a $20 suit that Dakota likes, but it was 2 pieces. Kim did not like my insistence that it be 1 piece, but I was. So shopping we went. We finally found something Dakota liked and was one piece. It may not have been more modest than the 2 piece, but I thought it was a teaching moment. I could be totally wrong. Speaking of teaching moments. I forgot that I need to be careful with Xenia. She got burned at Trek.

Kim was telling her that she needed to wear a T-shirt at the beach. She was not liking the idea and kept complaining. No matter how many times we explained that her burn was really bad. Finally I said that she was allowed to take the T-Shirt off when she was completely under the water. Well she understood that to make that happen she would not have the T-Shirt in the water at all. I forgot she can’t always get the subtlety. Very impressive as we were driving home she apologized for giving her mom such a bad time about wearing the T-Shirt.


Still Homeless in France

I have to say that it has been very comforting to be able to call Kim any time I want. If I call her at midnight it is first thing in the morning for her. If I call her in the morning it is afternoon and she is finishing up her day. I can call her around noon and then we are done talking until late in the evening.

I took my mother to the airport. She is such a trooper. She is 75 and is willing to travel all alone to France to hold Kim’s hand. She has an 8 hour delay in Houston. Kim is driving to Paris to pick her up. It is 3 and half hours from where she is at. She will then have to drive 3 and half hours back. That is a lot of driving for one day and she still needs to go out and look at houses. She abused the missionaries good graces and had them make some calls for her. I think she actual has an appointment in Dinan tomorrow

I booked Kim a little Bed and Breakfast near Rennes. Things aren’t working out the way we had hoped staying with Patrice’s friend. It will cost us about $350 a week. Yet another hurdle to overcome. Once we have a place and we are all together then the really hard work will begin. McKala reminded me of this today. Today was the first day she was able to access her online high school courses. I thought that working on the computer would be okay for her. She had a simple little orientation class to take. After and hour she was done. She was slamming doors and in a generally rotten mood. That is after one hour. What are we going to do in France when she quits. I have already warned her about doing that. Parenting is not always fun. I wish they would just do what I say. I guess it is an opportunity for relationship building.

I have so much to do. I am on hold right now waiting for the Arizona MVD to answer my call. My wallet was stolen awhile ago. I have already ordered it twice. The website said that any call on hold before 4:30 would be answered. I called all day and just got busy singles. At 4:28 I finally got through. I dare not hang up.

Tired not knowing what to do

Saturday Dakota, CK and I went to the Phoenix Comiccon. They were so excited. I don’t know what they expected to see there. I think they had a good time. It was interesting seeing some of the people who came dressed up. I got one of my Spiderman comic books signed by Todd McFarlane. I saw Felicia Day and then came home and watched all of season 3 of the Guild. She is so cute. John Schneider was there. He was on Smallville. I guess that is his comic book connection. I didn’t recognize anyone else, really. It was a small affair. I could have paid $40 to have my picture taken with one of the celebrities. That seemed kind of cheesy. I don’t even really value the signature of Todd McFarlane even though I waited a long time to get it. I thought it seemed more like the thing to do since I was there. We were there for a long time. I think we got there are 9AM and left around 3PM. This is a picture of us eating nachos. They were horrible and expensive, but they were the only food available. The picture is from Dakota’s camera, since Kim took the good camera to girl’s camp. What a waste of $40 that was.

There were a lot of booths where people were selling stuff. Dakota brought her own money and bought some anime stuffed animal. CK wanted this silly hat and other things. I said no. I did take a picture of him with the hat. I think I spent $60 total for the day. They seemed to have fun.

We had a pretty good day yesterday. We spent too much time picking up, but I have been lazy and finally had the gumption to get the kids working. They are such good kids. We were supposed to drive up to girls camp to spend the evening with Kim and the girls, but Kim sent me a text message saying that McKala was wanting to go home and I were there she would want to go home with me. I guess McKala is struggling with feeling good about herself. I think she struggles with communication and she realizes it so she feels like she doesn’t fit in. What are we to do. Strange that we would take McKala and Xenia to France to learn a foreign language when they struggle with English. I made CK and Dakota spend time with me before I would let them get on the computer. Dakota never got time on the computer. CK and I spent time doing scouts. I have to remember that it is about spending time together, not about getting something done. We probably spent an hour and a half hanging out. Dakota and I spent time learning to play the flute. She can play “Happy Birthday”. I am really impressed. It really is the first time we have got a tune out of the flute.

So it is Memorial Day. I was up until 4AM working on the dryer fan. I think it is installed and working. I did not do as nice a job as I would like, but with us leaving in a few days it is going to have to be good enough for now. There is a definitely a neater more organized way to do the whole thing, but it works. The mess is up in the attic, but I know it is there. We woke up at 7AM for the boy scout pancake breakfast. I thought it would be nice if the kids got a decent meal for once. It has been cold cereal and scrounge for what we can find. The breakfast was awful. I am glad to donate $15 to the boy scouts, but we could have done better with food. Kelsey, Dakota’s friend from school just picked her up. I think they are going to the movies. Her mother said that she would be back late. It is only noon here. I said it would be fine. A guy was supposed to pick up the planes I have in the backyard. He called at the last minute and said that he wouldn’t be able to get them. Now what am I supposed to do? I sent Shirley Fein (a ward member) an email asking if she ever lent out the trailer in her front yard. I really don’t know what I am going to do.

Level 5 Discipline

I have struggled with discipline and I thought it might be fun to try and tackle the problem as a family. The problem is how you teach discipline in the abstract. After trying several different approaches I stumbled across an approach that seems to work for us. I decided that each person should try and attain a certain level of discipline. Level 1 would be really easy and Level 2 would be a little harder. I have generally made it up as we went along. I then decided that at Level 5 there would be a prize and and award ceremony. The first pass level 5 was Xenia, which is not surprising as she would be my pick for the most disciplined out of all of us. She will wake up at 5AM to get home work done. Whereas the other kids have to be told to do their homework, Xenia is often found on the couch doing homework while the others play. Here is Xenia and her level 5 ceremony:

You can see in her hand the certificate and the prizes. She got tickets to the movies, a gift certificate to El Pollo Loco and a gift certificate to Yogurtland. The overall theme was a night out on the town. The next to pass level 5 was Miranda. She was highly motivated after seeing what Xenia got. Here is her award cermony:

Miranda got a $25 gift certificate to TJ Maxx and a pretty purse to hold her camera and a gift certificate to Yogurtland. They are both struggling with level 6. Level 6 is that they have to have everything put away at all times. If I find one thing not where it should be then they fail for the day. They have to do it for 5 days in a row. If they miss one day they have to start over. Neither has even passed one day. The rest of us (me included) are all on level 5. Level 5 also requires a 5 day repeat. CK has gotten as far as day 4 and had to start over. That was so sad.

Bedroom Fort




Today was Sunday. I was released from being the HP Group Leader. It felt oddly sad. I was expecting more relief. Kim is still out of town. She will get back tonight, late. She has been gone since Wednesday night. So today I continued my job of both mom and dad. Sundays without extra meetings is a little odd. At first I wanted to do nothing but veg. But then after awhile that felt uncomfortable. I started running around getting things done. CK kept wanting me to do things with him. I tried to drop whatever I was doing. I tried to get him to do some scout stuff, but he was not that interested. We played four square, horse, and we spent time making a tent for his bed. That is what these pictures represent.

I just stapled a sheet to the ceiling and let it drape over his bunk. It turned out better than I thought it would. He was excited. We had just put the bunk bed up yesterday and Xenia immediately claimed the bottom bunk and put blankets up to claim her space. We have created a sort of egalitarian approach to living and they are all supposed to sleep in the sleeping room. It is not their bedroom. It is not there anything. They are just to go there to sleep. They do have space in the dressing room for their things (including clothes) but it is all a shared space. So it is interesting to see them gravitate towards claiming their own. After Xenia had created her private bedroom, CK wanted to do the same. I wasn’t even keen to the idea that they would have assigned sleeping. So CK and I created this little world of his. Interestingly when Dakota went to hide so she could watch her Japanese animation on CK’s iTouch she went under the tent. It isn’t that they can’t be seen. I think it just feels private. Xenia and Miranda like to go into the dressing room closet and listen to music. It is a big closet and they can run back and forth while they are plugged into the iPod. McKala is more likely to find herself hiding in our bedroom. Is this an American or Human thing. I don’t know I do find it interesting. I am quite proud of myself that I took the time to do this little thing for CK. I wonder if he will remember.

Tonight as it was getting late I gave the kids and option. They could spend 20 minutes helping pick up the room and stay up until 9PM or they could just go to bed at 830PM. Dakota did the math and figured that 20 minutes picking up was not worth the extra 10 minutes, so she opted out. Everyone else went with their gut and said that staying up later is always better. We started scripture and prayer around 8:15 and were done by 830. Dakota went off to bed and everyone else enjoyed the fruits of their labor. I think everyone was happy. Dakota and everyone really got to feel like it was a real choice not a false choice where they really had to pick up the room. I was happy with the parenting. And Dakota made BLTs for everyone earlier and cleared the table and dishwasher without complaint. These kids are so good about helping out.